As you might, or might not know, June 7th 1967 was the day on which Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem, and in particular the Temple Mount and Western Wall (or Kotel in Hebrew). It was the first time in nearly two thousand years that Jews were in control of our holiest site - the location of the two Holy Temples. Jews been denied entry by the Jordanians to the Wall for nineteen years.
In that very month, my mother, then pregnant with me, won a trip to Israel and, a week after the end of the war made her way through the rubble, to the recently liberated Wall. So moved was she to be standing at this location, that she made a promise to herself that if the child inside of her was a boy, he would celebrate his Bar Mitzvah at The Wall. Thirteen years later, on November 6th 1980, I was able to fulfill that promise.
You can therefore appreciate that to me, The Kotel is something very special. Indeed, the older I get, the more I come to realise how incredibly blessed I am, to have celebrated such an important occasion at our holiest site.
It is easy to misunderstand the idea of the Kotel. We go there and literally pray to a wall! However, when I'm there, I try my best to look beyond the slabs and rteach out, both spiritually and figuratively to the nearest entry point (on earth) that we have to the site of our Holy Temples. I therefore feel as though I am praying through the wall, and not at it.
The Temple Mount was the place chosen as the location for the House of G-d. We all know that G-d is everywhere and by extension, whereever we pray, He will hear us, but being so close to his earthly home makes our prayers seem that much more relevant.
Recently, I've had the fortune to come across a fascinating toolbar that one can install inside Internet Explorer - you can find out more here.
One of the great features it has is the ability to view instant video from the Kotel, via three different webcams. Since I am finding myself getting up earlier each day (G-d bless Hay Fever), I now click on one of the links and view the Kotel in the early hours of daylight. I cannot think of a more inspiring vision than looking at the early rays of sunshine beaming off the wall, with a tuneful accompaniament of birdsong. It is as though time has stood still and I am right there, in situ, witnessing the opening of the Temple gates, ready for another day's worship.
With the Kotel visible in the background, I don my Tallit and Tefillin (Prayer Shawl and Phyllactiries) and pray with a new intensity towards the very location that I can see live on my computer screen. There's nothing quite as incredible as being able to see the location to which I am facing in prayer, albeit three thousand miles away, there in front of my very eyes.
Thanks to modern technology, a two thousand year wall and I are joined as one. Try it out and you'll know exactly what I mean.